Iran on Tuesday threatened to resume enriching uranium and barring open inspections of its nuclear facilities if a meeting of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency decides to refer Iran to the Security Council for possible sanctions.
However, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, offered European negotiators a new round of talks, saying the world should give Tehran's new government a chance to reach a political understanding.
At the International Atomic Energy Agency board meeting in Vienna, European officials prepared a draft resolution that would refer Iran to the Security Council for alleged "failures and breaches of its obligations to comply" with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But opposition by Russia could delay the vote until a later meeting of the 35-member board, diplomats in Vienna said.
Larijani criticized the discussion in Vienna, saying that nuclear technology has become a matter of national pride and that the Iranian government would not compromise over its right to enrich uranium.
"If they want to speak with Iran with the language of force, Iran will have no choice, in order to preserve its technological achievements, to get out of the framework" of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Larijani said at a news conference.
Larijani did not appear to be calling for Iran to pull out of the treaty completely but rather to suspend the protocol that allows unfettered, short-notice inspections of nuclear facilities.
He warned that Iran's response would be the same if the IAEA tried to impose deadlines.
"If they set a deadline, it will, from Iran's point of view, make no difference from being referred to the U.N. Security Council, and Iran will react in the same manner," Larijani said.
Britain, Germany and France, negotiating on behalf of the European Union, have drafted a resolution demanding Iran be referred to the council. China and Russia -- both Security Council members with veto power -- oppose hauling Iran before the U.N.'s top decision-making body. The Europeans also face opposition from other members of the IAEA board of governors, which convened Monday to discuss Iran's nuclear program.
The IAEA has been trying to determine whether gaps in Iranian reporting on more than 18 years of clandestine nuclear activity constitute attempts to hide ambitions to produce weapons in what Iran insists is a purely civilian program to generate electricity. Establishing such intent would bolster arguments by U.S. officials for a tougher international stance against Iran.